The 249 kilometers between Vierzon and Le Crezon made this seventh stage, contested this Friday, the longest of this 108th Tour de France. The riders met a hilly course, with five categorized climbs (3rd and 4th coategories) in the last 100 kilometers.
Team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert quickly stepped out the window in an attempt to create the breakaway, through Germans Jonas Koch and Georg Zimmermann. The decisive attack, however, came after 40 kilometers of racing, when a group of 29 riders broke away.
The Belgian Jan Bakelants and the Dutch Boy van Poppel, the most experienced elements of the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert selection, were part of this leading group alongside the yellow jersey Van der Poel, but also other famous names, causing a long pursuit from the peloton, in vain.
Thus, this substantial breakaway was clear, accumulating nearly 7 minutes with 100 kilometers from the finish. A little before, Boy van Poppel had taken second place in the intermediate sprint of Saint-Benin-d’Azy, behind the green jersey Cavendish, also in the front group.
The race changed in the first of the five climbs, the Côte de Château-Chinon (3.2 km at 5.2%), after Mohoric (Bahrain) and Van Moer (Lotto) fought for the KOM points. Both continued their effort and quickly created a one-minute gap on the remainder of the break.
Other riders made the choice of anticipation, as two men attacked 50 kilometers from the finish, later bringing the number of riders in the lead to 4. In pursuit, Boy van Poppel sacrificed himself to defend the interests de Bakelants, stage winner in Ajaccio in 2013.
However the decision was made on the climbs, in the Côte de la Croix de la Liberation (2.5 km at 7.3%), the Signal d’Uchon (5.7 km at 5.6%) and the Côte de la Gourloye ( 2.5 km at 5.1%), the top of the latter located 9 kilometers from the finish. After five and a half hours of racing, the Slovenian Mohoric won.
Jan Bakelants completes the longest Tour stage of the 21st century in seventeenth position. Louis Meintjes, the team leader for the overall classification, rallied Le Creuzot in the group of favorites which came five minutes after the winner.